Report calls for action to prevent further rail fare rises

00:05 04 January 2013

Commuters faced above-inflation fare rises. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Commuters faced above-inflation fare rises. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The government has been urged to abandon plans that could see rail commuters hit by even higher fares, according to a group of MPs.

Ministers should also set out a long-term policy on annual season ticket fare rises, the report by the House of Commons Transport Committee says.

Chairman Louise Ellman said that it was vital that the public knew more about how public money was spent on the railways “so that there is confidence it does not leak out of the system in the form of unjustified profits”.

The committee’s report on the railways comes just two days after inflation-busting average rises of 4.2 per cent for regulated fares, which include season tickets, took effect for passengers.

Following Sir Roy McNulty’s report into rail costs, the Government is currently looking at a variety of measures.

These include possibly managing peak-time demand by increasing fares for those wanting to travel when the rush hour is at its height.

The committee’s report said today: “We recommend that the Government rule out forms of demand management which would lead to even higher fares for commuters on peak-time trains”.

The MPs said many lower-paid workers had no choice but to travel at peak times.

The report went on: “Higher prices at peak times might make a difference to demand at the margin but would for the most part be a tax on commuters who have no effective choice over how or when they travel.”

This year’s regulated fare rise would have been even higher had the Government not pulled back from the original plan of an RPI-inflation-plus-three per cent rise in favour of a formula which limited the increase to RP1 plus one per cent.

The committee said it welcomed the decision not to proceed with RPI plus 3% but MPs were “concerned about where that leaves the Government’s fares policy, especially at a time when it is attempting to reduce the cost of rail to the taxpayer”.

The committee’s report comes after the DfT has been embroiled in the West Coast franchise fiasco which has led to a highly-critical independent report into the way the department handled the bids for a new franchise for the line.

Another independent report into the whole question of franchise handling is due to be published soon.

In its report today the committee said: “The collapse of the West Coast franchise competition has raised serious doubts about the DfT’s capability to manage major procurements as well as about its internal organisation and governance.

“Confidence in the DfT has been badly shaken. Ministers, current and former, as well as senior officials, have many questions to answer about this debacle.

“We will be asking these questions, and expecting clear answers, in the weeks to come before reaching our conclusions on this matter.”

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